Diving Back Into Film Photography

Being part of a generation where we’ve essentially been raised in the company of computers, it may be difficult for anyone to understand how a person could choose to do more work that is necessary when we have the companionship of technology to avoid us from having to put in any extra effort.

For example, a few may be curious as to why the inclination for many photographers to shoot exclusively with film when they could opt to have all the megapixels they could ever want from any of the slew of digital cameras available in the market.

The answer is that using older technology makes us more aware of how digital is changing everything. With photography, the school of thought has always been that one should progress into this hobby by using a fully manual 35mm SLR as a starting point for everything that comes after.

In some ways, photography now is easy and it’s not as complexed to reach a level where one begins producing work we’re satisfied with. I haven’t shot film in about 7 years since back when I was in college and at the time, I was too impatient to transition into digital that I failed to acknowledge how using a film camera forces anyone to learn technical intricacies that digital cameras now make easy for us.

Envisioning a photograph in your mind and knowing how to command your camera to represent that image is a powerful thing but it’s hard to accept that you have any creative control over what you shoot when you have your camera set to Auto.

I guess you could say that I jumped over the phase of properly understanding why certain things on a camera work the way they do. Something I could never overlook is how shooting film became very expensive and I think that alone was the impetus for wanting to shift quickly into digital.

I want to start shooting film again and the only explanation I have for this decision is that I want to improve as a photographer. I understand that “what I shoot” is far more important than “what I shoot with” but in this case, I feel I deprived myself from appreciating something that should have been inspirational rather than a burden I wanted to quickly be done with.

So far I would say that shooting digital has given me the skills and passion and now I’m curious to see how much of that will be manifested when I find myself confined to being extra careful on what I shoot with a film camera. It truly will be an exercise in patience. Shooting with film will allow me to play with the knowledge I have and to realize that every shot I take is a risk that will cost me roughly $.50 cents each.

Without deviating too far from the topic, it’s not a happy accident that I’m well versed with the position of every letter and number on a keyboard. I may have not been thankful at the moment but in hindsight, I’m extremely grateful now for how stringent our typewriting teacher was back in 6th grade when I lived in El Salvador.

She downright denied us all in class the privilege to lay hands on any of the only 4 computers our small private school had until we could successfully prove that we knew how to properly type by identifying the placement of each letter, number and character on the beaten typewriters we used without the need to continuously peer down.

I haven’t used a typewriter since then but the experience of being forced to learn how to use one has left me with a skill that no one could ever take away and it’s this same lesson that I hope to obtain from shooting film again but this time the right way.

The commitment one makes when pressing on a typewriter key is akin to the commitment one makes to pressing the shutter on a film camera. You gotta know what you want and that comes by understanding what you’re doing first.

Both Joel Zimmer and John Carey consistently shoot with film and they’re knowledge about the medium surpasses what I didn’t care learning about at the time but they’ve been very helpful in responding to questions I had when it came to making a decision as to what film camera I should buy and which film I should use.

At the current market price of used film cameras, there are lot of options that one could choose from. My intention was to find an SLR for under $100 and after numerous listing through Ebay, surprisingly enough I was able to snag a great deal on an Olympus OM-1 with a Zuiko 50mm 1.8 lens for $105 on of all places, Etsy.

I haven’t received it yet but I’m as eager as any tech junkie could be about buying anything. If you’re interested in jumping back in to film or picking it up because you skipped straight into digital, Australian photographer Amanda Gilligan has a very valuable piece which helped me tremendously in narrowing down which film camera to choose.

As far as film, I’m adamant to shoot in color because that’s just what I prefer. As with anything in photography, everything we do is based on experimentation so as a starter, I’ll be using Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H Color Negative Film.

For now, all is could do is wait for UPS to deliver my film camera.